Africa: Statement Delivered By Albert M. Muchanga African Union Commissioner, Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry and Minerals At the Joint Meeting of the African Union Ministers in Charge of Industry and Economic Diversification

press release

Your Excellency Mahamadou Ouhoumoudou, Prime Minister of the Republic of Niger;

Your Excellency Gourouza Magagi Salamatou, Minister of Industry and Youth Entrepreneurship of the Republic of Niger;

Your Excellencies Ministers responsible for industrialization and economic diversification;

Distinguished Senior Officials;

Strategic Partners;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

I great each and every one of you.

First and foremost, I would like to record deep appreciation to the Government and People of Niger for looking after us very well.

We have indeed been very well received.

The hospitality is outstanding.

The conference facilities are of very high standards, providing a conducive environment for our deliberations.

As part of the welcome, we were last night exposed to captivating and memorable dances and songs of Niger, which exposed to us, the entertaining, rich and dynamic culture of this great country.

We cannot wish for anything more. In response, all we can say and do is express deep gratitude.

Accepting to host us is an enormous responsibility. In this respect, I would like also to convey, through His Excellency the Prime Minister, to His Excellency Mohammed BAZOUM, President of the Republic Niger, the Government and People of the Republic of Niger profound appreciation for accepting the heavy responsibility to host this Ministerial as well as the upcoming 17th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union.

This is yet another demonstration of the commitment of the Republic of Niger to economic integration, inclusive growth and sustainable development in Africa.

We held several meetings here in Niamey between 2017 and 2019 to bring to life, the African Continental Free Trade Area.

We are now meeting here to develop a supply base for our continental market through inclusive industrialization and economic diversification.

Through Your Excellency the Prime Minister, we further salute His Excellency Mohammed BAZOUM, President of the Republic Niger, the Government and People of the Republic of Niger for this strong and dynamic spirit of Pan-Africanism.

I am very happy to see Your Excellencies, Ministers participating in this joint meeting on industrialization and economic diversification which is being held to prepare for the 17th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union on Industrialization and Economic Diversification scheduled to be held, as earlier stated, on 25th of November 2022 here in Niamey, Republic of Niger.

I do realize that, given your pressing commitments, it may have been difficult for you to attend this joint meeting.

Your presence here is highly appreciated and is testimony of the priority that you attach to this task of renewing our commitment to industrialize Africa in a sustainable, dynamic and inclusive manner to support economic diversification, competitiveness and prosperity as an integrated market.

This work requires strategic collaboration. In this respect, I would also to express sincere gratitude to our co-organizing partners. These are: the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA); the United Nations Office of Special Adviser on Africa (UN-OSAA); the United Nations Development Programme; the African Export Import Bank (Afreximbank); the African Trade Insurance Agency (ATI); the African Development Bank (AfDB); the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD); the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA); the Islamic International Finance Corporation; and, the Afro-Champions Initiative.

They all contributed, in many ways, in the preparations for the extra-ordinary session of the Assembly and preceding meetings such as this one.

My first remark on the substantive issue before us is to recall that the industrial policy framework of Africa is the Action Plan for the Accelerated Industrial Development for Africa (AIDA) which has seven clusters; namely:

Industrial policy and institutional direction;

Upgrading production and trade capacities;

Promote infrastructure and energy for industrial development;

Human resources development for industry;

Industrial innovation systems, Research and Development, and technology development;

Financing and resource mobilization; and,

Sustainable development.

I am sure that there is a unanimous position in this room that the basic problem facing us in the face is that not very much has been done to implement the AIDA clusters.

Two reviews of AIDA have come to the same conclusion.

Against this background, we need to introspect on what we need to do to improve implementation of AIDA.

The starting point is to harness the spirit of pragmatism.

Let us learn from our mistakes and adapt accordingly.

Let us, from the lessons of experience build capabilities that will make our industrialization process grow with a dynamism of its own.

For example, changing the perception and narrative that Africa is a high-return but equally high-risk investment destination starts with us.

It is us, no other region of the world which will rebrand Africa.

Although the Senior Officials, as I will show later, call the African Union Commission to undertake this, my view is that we need, Member State and the African Union Commission to collectively dialogue with African sovereign, pension and pension funds as well as the African diaspora.

The desired outcome would be to convince them to transfer their holdings undergoing negative yields abroad to Africa and invest in the African Investment Bank, an institution provided for in the Constitutive Act of the African Union, among other African Union financial institutions..

In the same spirit, let us also dialogue with the African private sector to use the African Investment Bank and other Pan African Financial institutions like the African Development Bank, the African Export Import Bank and the African Trade Insurance Agency, among others, to invest in manufacturing and agro-processing in Africa.

By doing so, we would demonstrate to the rest of the world that the reality on the ground is that Africa is a high-return and low-risk investment destination when their investments in Africa start generating high and safe returns.

To take these actions, we need to believe in ourselves.

Believing is ourselves, among others, means that such action should be taken with unshakable resolve to transform into implementable programmes and projects, all the clusters of AIDA.

We also need to work together in a spirit of Pan-Africanism which gave us the African Continental Free Trade Area.

With pragmatism and nationalism, our mothers and fathers secured for themselves and ourselves, the independence we all enjoy today.

And they used that to create the Organization of African Unity, forerunner to the African Union.

The African Union gave us the African Continental Free Trade Area. This is a large and integrating market with huge potential for rapid development, if, if, if, we supply it with intermediate and final goods.

And that is the task of industrialization and economic diversification.

And the task of this joint meeting is to give new momentum to our industrialization and economic diversification processes.

What I am saying is in line with some of the points the Senior Officials are recommending to you, in addition to the fact that they also touch on the seven clusters of AIDA.

I will briefly touch on five of the key points of the Senior Officials.

First, the Senior Officials, who worked and smart on the documents before you, observed that industrialization is key to accelerating economic diversification and supporting robust and resilient growth.

With this in in mind, the emerging consensus among Senior Official is that productive transformation in strategic sectors of agriculture, industry and services is a sustainable path to promote inclusive growth and sustainable development and, in the process, create quality jobs needed by Africa's growing and youthful population.

Second, the Senior Officials observed that for Africa's industrialization and economic diversification to take root and grow with dynamism, there is need for transformational and developmental leadership.

The role of African leaders is critical in ensuring that we attain the vision of building resilient institutions, developing quality infrastructure and putting together the human, natural and financial resources needed for inclusive sustainable industrialization.

In this respect, there is need to show greater commitment on industrialization and economic diversification by creating more opportunities for productivity and revenue generation.

Furthermore, there is need to build institutions and implement the right policies that create enabling business environment for the formalization of the private sector as well as enhancing industrial policy coherence necessary for effective implementation of industrial development programmes and projects through appropriate monitoring and evaluation of outcomes.

As a response to these needs, the African Union Commission proposes the designation of an AU Champion on Industrialization and Productive Transformation who will provide political leadership, raise awareness and ensure effective implementation of Africa's industrial development.

We shall collaborate with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization to facilitate the work of the Champion.

Third, the Senior Officials also observed that Infrastructure and energy are essential to industrialization.

In this respect, the Senior Official highlighted the bad state of Africa's electricity, water, road and information and communications technology (ICT).

The infrastructure deficits highlighted in the preceding paragraph impose high costs on industries by reducing competitiveness, which in turn restricts access to local and international markets.

Currently, Africa faces a huge infrastructure gap, with only 4 percent of the Continent's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) allocated to infrastructure development yearly. This is very little compared to 14 percent in China.

From the foregoing, it is clear that bridging the infrastructure gap is essential to unlocking Africa's industrialization potential, which, if exploited, can increase GDP growth by an estimated 2 percentage points annually.

Fourth, the Senior Officials observed the need for appropriate financing mechanisms to support Africa's industrialization.

The Senior Official noted that financing of Africa's industrialization and economic diversification has to be increasingly based on domestic public and African private sector resources. For that to happen, there is need to explore untapped financial approaches and mechanisms.

In addition to traditional domestic sources of finance such as taxes and levies and private savings, Africa needs to adopt a broader and more diversified set of instruments and mechanisms as well as financial products, and create an enabling environment for mobilizing resources from non-traditional sources.

Fresh approaches to industrial development financing revolve around sovereign wealth funds (SWFs), pension funds, insurance savings, private equity funds, diaspora and sovereign bonds, remittances, public-private partnerships (PPPs), emerging green financing as well as the curtailment of illicit financial flows from Africa.

In this connection, there is need to develop a continental financing platform that supports industrialization and economic diversification. Senior Officials tasked the African Union Commission to work closely with financial institutions to establish a continental financing platform to ensure coordination in the collection and channelling of resources to industrialization.

As will be recalled, my earlier call was for a collective approach.

Fifth, the Senior Officials call for building a stronger partnership with the private sector to accelerate Africa's industrialization through creation of an enabling business environment.

At the level of the African Union, we have worked with the African private sector to create the African Business Council and Pan African Manufacturers Association.

As I go towards concluding my statement, let me say that as you consider the observations and recommendation of Senior Officials, we should all be aware that this is the beginning of a long and arduous journey.

We are bound to face many pitfalls and encounter a number of obstacles in this journey to industrialization and economic diversification.

But the reality before us, just like our mothers and fathers faced reality when struggling for freedom, failure is not an option.

With this spirit, let us give life and dynamism to Africa's inclusive and sustainable industrialization through pragmatic interventions that yield measurable and tangible outcomes of innovation, competitiveness, output, value addition, employment and, among others and above all, improved livelihoods of ordinary Africans.

I will end here and wish all of us fruitful deliberations.

I thank you all for your kind attention.

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